Xeriscape_symbolThe term “Xeriscape” may sound unusual, but the concept is comprised of seven sound horticultural practices that are appropriate for the Desert Southwest. The seven principles are:

1. Good Landscape Planning and Design
Creating a plan will help to serve as a guide and keep you focused on your objectives. It will also help you to get the most out of your landscape when you consider issues like cost, function, aesthetic preferences, maintenance requirements, water efficiency and energy efficiency. Taking time to think about all of these things before starting will also help you avoid wasting time and money. This will help you decide if you will do it all at once or in stages.

2. Low Water Use Plants
Local nurseries carry hundreds of water-thrifty native or desert-adapted plant species that are water thrifty. These plants come in all shapes, sizes, and color. Some serve more than aesthetic purposes as they also offer shade and can screen unsightly areas. Many also have beautiful flowers that can help you create a colorful, low-maintenance yard without using up our limited water resources.

3. Appropriate Turf Areas
There are times that only grass will do, especially if you are sports minded or if there are children or pets at home. While turf generally requires more water and more maintenance than low water use plants, it can be incorporated successfully into a Xeriscape if it is properly planned, installed and maintained.

4. Efficient Irrigation
First, determine how much water your plants will need so that you can apply only that much. Almost all new plants will need to be watered regularly while being established. When you design your irrigation system, it is wise to put trees, shrubs, groundcover, and turf areas on different valves so you can time their irrigation separately. After the first year, you can usually cut back on watering after the plants are well established. Plants will need less water during the cooler months, so you will want to adjust your schedule at least four times each year.

5. Soil Improvements
If using low-water plants, most will thrive in our desert soil without adding fertilizers and soil supplements. They will need good drainage, and the soil needs to be loosened at planting time to encourage healthy root growth. Turf areas will require soil amendments as well as areas with plants that are thirstier. The Sonoran Desert has a wide variance of soil quality and composition, and at times will require soil amendments for unusual conditions.

6. Use of Mulches
There are many types of organic and inorganic mulches. The purpose is to cover the soil and reduce evaporation from planted areas. They are also helpful in inhibiting weed growth and erosion. The most popular organic mulches are bark chips and wood grindings. Leaves, flowers, & fruit that drop can also be left on the ground as mulch. For inorganic mulch, decomposed granite and crushed rock are the most popular.

7. Appropriate Maintenance
When all of the previous steps have been done well, Xeriscapes saves water, time and money through reduced water needs and lower maintenance requirements. Lower water does not mean “zero” water and “zero” maintenance, as all landscape requires some care. Proper pruning, a well-maintained irrigation system, and prudent use of fertilizers will go far and keeps your yard beautiful and natural looking.